Continuous Glucose Monitors Reduce Number of Finger Sticks While Improving Health
New technology is allowing people with diabetes to reduce the number of times each day they have to perform finger stick tests to measure their blood sugar (glucose) levels. Devices called continuous glucose monitors (CGMs) are making life easier while improving diabetes control, according to Valentine J. Burroughs, M.D., an endocrinologist at Highland Medical P.C.
“Most people with diabetes who don’t use a CGM do not know what their blood glucose level is at any point in time and are supposed to use a finger stick test three to four times a day. Some people should be using them even more in order to determine their blood glucose level. Many patients don’t like doing finger stick tests, so they don’t do as many as they should be in order to control their blood sugar levels,” Dr. Burroughs said. “With a CGM, you only have to do a finger stick every 12 hours—patients really love it.”
How Do CGMs Work?
CGMs automatically track blood glucose levels throughout the day and night. Seeing your blood sugar levels in real time can help you make better decisions about how to balance your food, physical activity and insulin.
A CGM uses a tiny sensor inserted under your skin, usually on the belly, which is replaced every week or two. The sensor measures the glucose found in the fluid between cells. It tests glucose every five minutes, and a transmitter wirelessly sends the information to a receiver. A person uses that information to figure out how much insulin they need.
Some CGM models send information directly to a smartphone. “For parents of children with diabetes, this is extremely helpful,” Dr. Burroughs noted. “Kids aren’t always as attentive as they should be to their blood sugar levels. Now the child’s blood glucose information can be sent to their parent’s phone.”
CGMs are very useful for people who are physically active. “After you do sports, your blood sugar may drop,” Dr. Burroughs said. “The CGM can keep you safe.” The monitors are waterproof, and can be used while showering or swimming. You can set an alarm on your CGM to alert you when your glucose level goes too high or too low. “This is especially helpful when you’re sleeping, when you may be at risk of having your blood glucose go too low,” Dr. Burroughs said.
A person using a CGM still has to do a finger stick test twice a day in order to confirm the monitor reading (calibrate the CGM).
Insulin pumps are small computerized pumps worn on your belt or in a pocket.
Using the insulin pump will enable you to switch from injecting insulin to using the insulin pump to deliver a very precise amount of insulin before meals, for different times of day and overnight.
Newer CGM models are part of an insulin pump system. The sensor determines your blood glucose level and sends that information wirelessly to the insulin pump already attached to the abdomen. The pump calculates the correct amount and releases the insulin into the bloodstream, without you having to inject yourself.
”With a continuous glucose monitor, you can control your diabetes better, and that will help you stay healthy and prevent complications of the disease,” Dr. Burroughs said.